Lighthouse: All Gifts


I remember the day of Naavre’s birth in snippets of scene.

The morning walk with Mojo, when I felt that this would be the day.


Caleb’s call, saying he had a feeling to get in touch with us today, and wondering if we could use some help.


Caleb helping Santi with a model of of planets. “I remember,” Santi said. “It was way far!”

“I bet it was,” Caleb said.


Xirra stopping by.

“It’s time,” she said. “Are you ready? This little one is ready!”


Xirra’s laughter. Though she was an experienced doula, and well-acquainted with a mother’s pain, she laughed so much.

“It kinda hurts,” I said, through clenched teeth. And she laughed more.


“I’m not laughing at you,” she explained. “I’m not even laughing with you! I’m just laughing! I’m so happy! I can’t help it. I’m sorry! I’m not. I’m happy!”


Xirra can be so infuriating.


My screaming. I don’t remember the pain, thank heavens. I guess our mind-body protects us from that, glossing it over, to keep the memory of the day one of joy. But the screams. I remember them.


Sept’s back rubs. His thumbs, pressing into the pressure points along my shoulders took away the pain, even if only for a moment.


“It still hurts.”

Sept laughed.

“Why are you laughing?”

“I’m so happy.”

“See?” Xirra said. They weren’t helping.


Santi’s questions.

“What next? Mallory OK? Why baby inside? Hurt?”

And Xirra’s patient answers in Vingihoplo, explaining anatomy and the birth process in a way that Santi could understand, even the biology lesson was a little bit shocking.


My water breaking, and the undeniable urge to push.

“It’s time! Oh, God! Fuck!”

Sanghi, moMallory!” Santi said.


And then the birth. I stood. I squatted. I panted.

“You’re fine!” Xirra said. “You’re doing great.”

“Fuck, Sept!” I yelled.

“You’re beautiful, byu!”


Screw it ALL!”


And then, with a final push, the baby in my arms. Naavre. All gifts.


He was beautiful. We dressed him in the suit Xirra brought, to help support his tiny heart, liver, and lungs in this dry environment.


Waves of love came from him, like when he was inside of me, but stronger now, amplified by his eyes and his tiny cries.


And Sept. Sept’s joy.


EOo inna-inna EOo.”


“I have a son;  this son has a father,” he said, over and over.

And that was when life changed, yet again, and suddenly, everything seemed to matter so very much, this planet, the rebellion, the riots–all of it. Everything was real, and everything mattered.


That was the day of Naavre’s birth.

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Septemus 58


Dear Sept,

You were amazing today, son. Thank you.

You told me the night before, when I felt the first pains, that you were taking the next day off of school.

I’m so grateful that you did. I couldn’t have gotten through this alone.


You reassured me and the baby.

I’m not sure what you told your little brother, but shortly after you put your hands on him, I felt him quiet down. I could tell he was fine. He stopped being restless, and he became restful, getting ready for the big moment.


So many times that day, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But you were there, offering support and encouragement.


At sunset, the baby arrived. It was just as Xirra said. The incision scar opened. It hardly even bled. We pulled the baby out. Then you applied the balm Xirra had left with me, and the wound closed right up. This time, even the scar disappeared.

Octavius didn’t even cry. We cleaned him off and dressed him in the infant suit Xirra sent. He cooed.

You were so tired, son–I can understand why. You were a champ.


I can’t figure how I got to be so lucky. Me, Sebastion Sevens. Proud papa of two beautiful, amazing, miracle sons.


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New World Symphony: Delivery


Cathy played through the night. Brahms’ intermezzos on piano in the parlor gave way to Bach’s partitas on violin in the garden.

She thought over Sugar’s fury while she played. What had made her so angry? She knew Sugar disliked Brennan–he had a habit of lashing out at people and he genuinely seemed to enjoy the misery of others.

But we’re none of us perfect, Cathy thought. We all have our complicated patterns and our foibles and follies, and to love someone even knowing their limitations, that was something, wasn’t it?

But Cathy suspected there was more to it than that. She herself suspected Brennan’s true origins–she was never taken in by his backstory, though he still believed it without hesitation.

“I’m from New Orleans,” he was fond of saying, and every time he said it, Cathy smelled rose-water and sulfur.

When onezero woke, Cathy sought her out.

“Do you think there’s reason to worry?” she asked her friend. “Was Sugar right in her first response, and did I do something wrong and irresponsible in getting pregnant?”


onezero wrapped her in a big hug.

“When we combine two to make one,” said onezero, “the result is something entirely extraordinary! It’s not the mother, it’s not the father. You are bringing in something new, and that’s always something to celebrate.”


They sat in the garden while the sun rose.

Cathy had to admit that, if she tuned in to how she felt, everything felt so very right. Sometimes, life steps up and asks you to follow, that’s how she felt–and here she was, following as best she could.

“After all,” she said to onezero, “this just happened! It wasn’t something I planned. It’s not something that could be expected.”

“Exactly,” said onezero from the easel at the edge of the porch. “Like when my dad was taken by the thousand. Who would expect that? That’s not anything that could be planned or expected.”

“And look how that turned out!” said Cathy, with a smile. “You’re the best surprise there ever was!”


onezero left after she finished her painting, a portrait of a Madonna which they hung upstairs. “Call me when it’s time,” onezero said. “I’ll come in a jiffy!”

Cathy spent the late morning painting a childlike drawing of a tiny being–half fairy, half bird. The innocence of the painting charmed her.

This might be my last time alone for a while, she thought, savoring the solitude and the quiet. We make our peace, she thought, hoping to remember this during the busy days that would be sure to follow the baby’s delivery.


In the afternoon, while she was relaxing with a computer game, the contractions came.

I can do this, she thought, remembering to breathe.


But the second contraction came with such fierceness, as if she were tearing inside, and she wasn’t sure she could do it. She couldn’t get ahold of Jaclyn. She called onezero.


onezero arrived with sadness. Cathy couldn’t ask what was the matter–every ounce of concentration was spent breathing through the pain.


“I knew it wouldn’t be an easy birth,” onezero said. “I could feel it. Are you all aright?”

Cathy couldn’t answer.

“I wish Jaclyn were here,” onezero said.


They made their way back to the nursery.

“Oh! It’s going to be all right!” onezero said. “I just felt a shift. There’s nothing to worry about! You can push now!”


And onezero was right.

In fact, she was doubly right. Two babies were born, a son and a daughter, and both were healthy, each one with ten fingers and ten toes, and two eyes, and one nose.

“They’re lovely. What will you call them?” onezero asked.

“You name them,” said Cathy. “You’re their godmother.”


“Me and Jaclyn,” said onezero. She closed her eyes for a moment. “Jaclyn says that the little boy should be called something… something that you had in your sandwich. Fireflies? Something sparkly.”

“Sparkroot?” Cathy asked.

“Exactly!” said onezero. “Sparkroot and Florinda.”


onezero took out her cellphone. “We need to remember today,” she said, snapping a photo of the two of them. “I mean, of course we’ll always remember, but this will help us commemorate, too.”


When onezero left, Cathy spent time with each baby, feeling that warm weight rest in the crook of her arm, as if her body had been built for this.

Sparkroot had eyes the shape of his daddy’s, but they twinkled with a spark all his own.


After she’d nursed the twins and tucked them into bed she called Brennan.

“We had two,” she said. “Do you want to come meet them?”


“It’s really something,” he said. “Are they exactly alike?”

“Well, one’s a girl and one’s a boy, and one has lighter skin and one darker, and their eyes and smiles are shaped differently, but they’re exactly alike in that they’re both ours.”


Brennan felt proud and surprised. They weren’t much to look at–they both looked the same to him, sort of like little peanuts, and there wasn’t much of them, and they couldn’t really talk yet, could they, but they’d grow into something. They’d grow into actual people, his children, and that was something.

“I’m a dad,” he said.


He wrapped his wife in a hug. “We really did it!” he said.


“I’m a dad!”

She held him, and to her, with his beating heart and hot skin, he felt in her arms like a little boy who’d come home from school with a first prize in the science fair, bursting with excitement and pride.


She went into the kitchen to prepare a late-night snack for them, and when she finished, she found him at the computer, posting onto the Forums, “I am the proud papa of twins. Who says a poor boy from New Orleans can’t hit a home run, twice?”


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Wonder 4


I realized that I hadn’t even seen Paolo since I told him I was pregnant. I hadn’t even thought of him–oops.

So when he called to ask me for a date, I suggested that he meet me at the clinic after what was scheduled to be my final prenatal check-up.

He was so sad when I saw him standing at the corner in front of the clinic.

“Is the appointment with the doctor of delivery over?” he asked.

“It was with a nurse practitioner,” I said. “But, yeah. It’s done. Clean bill of health for me and the baby!”

“But I wanted to be there,” he said. “Look at the size of you! How did this happen?”

“It’s called pregnancy,” I said.

“Oh no, that is not the meaning of the intent. I am so sorry. You are so beautiful. I wanted to be there. I wanted to see the swelling of you. No, not the swelling. The growth of the mama. Like the rose and the apple on the tree. And how did this happen? How did it go so fast that now the time is at the arrival?”


And here I thought he didn’t care!

“Would you like to feel your baby?” I asked.


“It is OK? I can touch the bebê?”

As he put his hand on my belly, the baby gave one of his huge kicks.

“Ah! He is the player of the futebol! He is the he? Or no, he is the she?”

I told him that I didn’t know–I didn’t look at the ultrasounds since I wanted to be surprised. But I shared what Ulrike had told me, and I said that Beryl and I, too, think that the baby is a little boy.

“I am going to be the pai! Paolo the pai!” he said. He really is adorable, Paolo is. Geesh, do I really feel that? I do. In spite of it all, he seems so innocent. We had never really talked–I mean, there just wasn’t time for many words when we were heading to the closet those two times. I realized I knew next to nothing about him, and I wanted know.


We went inside and he told me all about his family. His grandfather was a printer. His shop specialized in broadsheets of work by poets like Sidónio Muralha and Fernando Pessoa.

“The grandfather of me, he cut the pictures in the wood for the poems of them,” Paolo said. “These are very beautiful. Very famous. Very beautiful.”

Paolo’s father is an artisan, a furniture maker. “All the world wants the tables of him!” said Paolo. His mother had been an aspiring opera singer in her youth, but as her career began to demand more traveling, she gave it up, so she could stay home to raise her five boys.

His brothers are all professionals in Barcelona: a doctor, a professor, a commodities investor, and an attorney. Paolo had planned to work with his father, but his skill as a soccer player turned his fate, bringing him here. An injury eighteen months ago halted his career, and now, he picks up odd jobs as he can.

“I want for not much,” he said. “The dance, the party, the… the life! This is enough. And now, the bebê!”


“You two are so cute together,” said a woman at the bar with us. “Newlyweds?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “We’re not married. We won’t be. He’s the dad, but, yeah. We’re not exactly a couple.”


Paolo laughed. “It is the understanding,” he said. “The understanding of amar.”

After the woman left, I asked Paolo, “What’s your father’s name? And your mother’s.”

“Ah, meu pai is called Carlos Rocca, and minha mãe is called by Isabella Fernanda de la Maria de Rocca.”

I began to laugh.

“The name has humor?” he asked.

“No, not the name. It’s mother! Mãe! My name. My name is Mae.”

While I was laughing, the first contraction came.


O, meu Deus!” Paolo shouted. “The time! She has arrived!”

I breathed.


“When I had my first baby,” said the bartender, “I was in labor for thirty-nine hours and forty-two minutes. Finally, I just said, ‘Get me a freakin’ epidural and get this thing out.’ It was rugged. ‘Course with the next one, she came in an hour and a half. But you never know, that’s all I’m saying. You could have the baby here, you could have it in the cab on the way home, you could have it three days from now after a world of pain.”


The contractions were still quite a ways apart. I called Beryl, called a cab, and then I went to take a nap on the couch while we waited. I wanted to be rested when the time for pushing came.


We heard the cab honk, and Paolo raced out the back door. “Vou pegar o táxi!” he shouted. And I didn’t see him the rest of the day.


I walked out the front and called for another cab.


When I got home, Beryl raced out and gave me a big hug. “The midwife is on her way! She actually had another delivery, but that woman is at ten centimeters so she thinks it will be any moment, and the toilet clogged so I’ve been plunging it but I’ve just about got it plunged but there’s a big puddle so I’m going to mop, and thank God, you’re home. Are you breathing?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m breathing. Are you?”

“God, no!” laughed Beryl. “I’m too excited to breathe!”


I came inside and changed into my PJs, and then, before the midwife even arrived, the contractions were so strong. I had to push. I just had to.


Beryl was still in the bathroom mopping. I was breathing, so I couldn’t say, “It’s time.” All I could think was “Eesh. Eesh. Oooh,” over and over, like the crazy refrain of a monkey song.


And then, before I knew it, I was holding Charlie Rocca Cups in my arms, looking into his soft brown eyes that didn’t hold the ghost of my dad or the spark of my grandfather but that shone so deeply and so purely with all of the being of this perfect little baby.


His laugh is golden.


I am so in love.


When he sleeps, all I can do is stand and look at him.


His little nose! His fingers. I want to eat them. I want to devour his toes.


And when he wakes, he makes these little gurgles of happiness.


Then he laughs.

He kicked with his left leg and threw out his right arm, and I recognized that movement–that’s the same move he made inside of me.


And when he screams! Oh! When he screams, the roof cracks down and my nipples leak and I feel a spasm in my uterus, and he just belts it out at the top of his lungs, and all Beryl and I can do is laugh and laugh. We have a healthy little boy.


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